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Yahoo! Treading Water.

Yahoo! is sitting on a bundle of cash and according to news reports stockholders are clamoring for a payout. The cash is from holdings in Alibaba which just IPO’d. Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO, is being pressured to not spend money on purchases of other tech companies a la the huge Tumblr purchase — stock owners want dividend checks. Can’t really blame them.

Yahoo is a media company and a technology company. And frankly, they are not excelling at either. David Pogue is not happening. Katie Couric, not so much. The new digital food magazine is not burning down the house. And mobile first – I don’t really know what that means other than make stuff work on smaller screens and invent fun phone apps – is not delivering differentiated value at this point.

Ms. Mayer needs to tell investors “snookie, shut up and get in your bed.” She needs to put the check book away and stop looking to buy side view mirror tech companies (companies fast approaching from behind). Yahoo’s new strategy is “be part of people’s daily habits.” A nice start. But weather, food, tech news and the Middle East have been done. Yahoo needs to invent in areas that are not saturated. And big data is a good place to mine for behaviors and habits. Focus on daily habits, innovate around them and deliver under the Yahoo brand. First understand the habits, then understand the pent up demand, then turn the engineers loose. I get the feeling the engineers are defining the need, which is backwards.

Too much company time is spent reinventing not inventing. Peace. 

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I had a great day yesterday thanks to the Internet.  TechCrunch Disrupt was held in NYC again and streamed live. For freezle. Fred Wilson (AVC.com) of Union Square Ventures started things off interviewed by TechCrunch veteran Erick Schonfeld and Fred offered some gems on venture investing.  Union Square has invested in Twitter, Etsy, Disqus, Foursquare, Tumblr and Zynga, lately making Kleiner Perkins appear standing still.

Some Fred thoughts:

  • It’s better to be an anthropologist than technologist in venture capital.
  • Social, global, mobile and cloud are the key trends.
  • We invest in the cultural revolution.
  • We like people who have a deep obsession over a long period of time.

Dennis Crowley of Foursquare was there and smart. Chris Dixon an investor and edge burnisher was a panelist. Michael Arrington, three quarters funny, interviewed his boss Tim Armstrong, CEO of AOL. Between speakers and panelists, there were green room interviews – a very nice touch.  Back in the day (a year or two ago) if you tried to stream something like this, it would have been a herky jerky mess.  Not now.  Not with Ustream. The afternoon was a start-up jump ball in front of other entrepreneurs and VCs, some of which I watched but found to be a bit below the morning program.

The event rocked.  And speaking of rock, in the 70s and 80s in NYC, it was the rock star start-ups who were rock stars.  Now they are tech dudes. The art is different, the drug is Red Bull and the output is hard to dance and hum to — but tech is really bringing NYC back. Plus there was a big East Coast/West Coast thing going at the event, too.

If you can attend next year…or if you can’t but can clear the decks to watch the stream, do it. There’s money to be learned. Peace.

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